Hunza, the valley of dreams where the cherry blossom trees put on a spectacular show in summer. A week in the majestic Karakoram mountain ranges is enough to transform you. It offers something for everyone, be it mountaineers, explorers, couples or tourists.
Hunza, a remote mountain kingdom, may have been the inspiration behind James Hilton’s “Shangri-La.” The area opened up in the 1970s following the completion of the Karakoram Highway (KKH); an engineering marvel tracing the old silk route from Pakistan into China. The fair-skinned and light-eyed Hunzakuts claim to be descendants of soldiers lost from Alexander’s army as he invaded India. Their language, Burushaski, provides linguists an enigma as it is unrelated to any other language known to man. The beauty of this mountain paradise is matchless; from the soft blossoms of the apricot trees to the dark snowcapped rock monuments of Rakaposhi (7788 m.) and recently climbed Ultar (7388 m.) jabbing a vivid blue backdrop high above. We begin our journey with a plane flight from Islamabad to Gilgit. If the weather does not permit the flight, we will travel via the famous KKH. From Gilgit, we proceed over the Karakoram Highway to Karimabad (2440 m.), the capital of Hunza. En route Rakaposhi appears with its sheer ice-covered walls to awe passersby.
One night is spent in Karimabad before we begin a brief, but strenuous walk to the base of Ultar Peak. We camp for two days on the high meadows overlooking Hunza valley and then return to Karimabad ready for our next adventure. A short drive on the KKH takes us to Passu where we begin our trek on the Batura Glacier (63 km.). We spend about a week on the Batura; walking over rocks and sand laid between jagged peaks, through pine strewn hills with occasional wild roses, to high shepherd meadows with staggering views of the Batura massive and the largest icefall in the world. The people in this area are of Persian/Turkish origin and speak a language with ties to Persia. The Wakhi people are very hospitable with bright pink cheeks topping a ready smile. The last segment of this journey begins with our return to Passu or Gulmit village. After an overnight rest there, we drive on the KKH to the Khunjerab Pass (4833 m.) on the border between China and Pakistan. After enjoying the rolling green highlands, we return the same day to Karimabad. An overnight stay in Karimabad and then on to Gilgit through the KKH.
The last leg of our trip takes us back to Islamabad by plane or road depending on the weather. The Hunza adventure is a grand introduction to the mountains of Pakistan. The traveler follows the most spectacular segment of the ancient silk route through an enchanting mountain kingdom to Pakistan’s border with China. The Batura Glacier provides a glacial excursion with less difficulty than either the Baltoro or Biafo-Hispar glacial traverse.
Baltit Fort is a fort in the Hunza valley, near the town of Karimabad, in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of northern Pakistan. Founded in the 8th CE, it has been on the UNESCO World Heritage Tentative list since 2004.
Passu is a small village on the Karakoram Highway, beside the Hunza River, Passu is some 15 kilometers from Gulmit, the Tehsil Headquarter of Gojal in the Gilgit-Baltistan region of Pakistan, and about 150 km upriver from Gilgit. Passu lies very near the tongue of the Pasu Glacier, and just south of the tongue of the Batura glacier.
Attabad Lake is a lake in Gojal Valley, Hunza, Gilgit Baltistan, an administrative region of Pakistan. The lake was created in January 2010 as a result of the Attabad Disaster.
Khunjerab Pass is a high mountain pass in the Karakoram Mountains in a strategic position on the northern border of Pakistan and on the southwest border of China.
Day 1, Rawalpindi/Islamabad
Hotel, trek briefing. We will have ample time for sightseeing and shopping in colorful old bazaars of Rawalpindi and new markets of Islamabad. We may also drive to the huge modern Faisal Mosque in Islamabad.
Day 2, Gilgit (1,500 m 4,920 ft)
Hotel, flight. One of the most thrilling mountain flight in the world. We will fly in a Fokker Friendship turboprop plane which seats about 40 people. The plane flies at an altitude of about 4,500 m. in the Indus valley. It is surrounded by high peaks including Nanga Parbat (8,125 m.). In Gilgit, we have time to shop and do some sightseeing. if the weather is bad and flights are canceled then we will leave Gilgit by road on KKH
Day 3, Karimabad (2,440 m 8,000 ft)
Hotel, drive. This is a 3-hour drive into the heart of the Hunza valley. Rakaposhi (7,788 m.) towers above the KKH. Hunza valley is a Shangri-La!
Day 4, Ultar (3,600 m 11,800 ft)
Camp, trek. Today we will climb up to the Ultar meadows overlooking the Hunza valley. This is a brisk and steep climb behind Baltit Fort. It takes about 4 hours of trekking.
Day 5, Ultar (3,600 m 11,800 ft)
Camp, rest. The nice day just to relax in the beautiful surroundings. We can mingle with the shepherds here. The mica Ultar Glacier lies in front of us and the Ultar peaks along with ‘Ladies Finger’ towers above us.
Day 6, Karimabad (2,440 m 8,000 ft)
Hotel, trek. After our quick two day trek up the Ultar Meadows, we now return to Karimabad. This gives us a day to relax and shop in local bazaars.
Day 7, Pasu (2,400 m 7,870 ft)
Hotel, jeep. A short couple of hours drive up the KKH brings us to the village of Pasu. The view of Tupopdan needles towering above the Hunza river in Pasu is breathtaking. In the afternoon we have time to walk in the old village.
Day 8, Yunzben (2,700 m 8,860 ft)
Camp, trek. The Batura Glacier trek begins. It takes about 4 to 5 hours walking on dusty trails at the snout of the huge Batura Glacier. The Batura is even longer than the famous Baltoro Glacier in the K2 region.
Day 9, Yashpirt (3,100 m 10,170 ft)
Camp, trek. Today we diagonally cross the Batura Glacier. This is a tiresome day with a lot of walking on rocks and the moraines of Batura. Yashpirt is a beautiful high meadow with many shepherd huts and fantastic views of the Batura peaks and the famous Batura ice fall across the glacier from us. We can also see Distaghil Sar (7,885 m.) from here. Distaghil Sar is the highest most western mountain in Trans-Himalayan and one has to go around the globe to come back to the eastern Himalaya to find such high peaks. Today’s walk takes about 6 to 8 hours.
Day 10, Guchashim (3,400 m 11,160 ft)
Camp, trek. This takes about 4 to 6 hours and involves crossing mountain streams. On the way, we see families from Pasu with their yaks, sheep, and cows in their summer homes. On our right is the ever-present huge Batura massif wall.
Day 11, Guchashim (3,400 m 11,150 ft)
Camp, rest. We have ample time to wash, read and just explore the beautiful and awesome environment. Some go a little higher for a day hike to visit a side valley.
Day 12, Yashpirt (3,100 m 10,170 ft)
Camp, trek. Return to Yashpirt camp.
Day 13, Yunzben (2,700 m 8,860 ft)
Camp, trek. Return to Yunzben camp.
Day 14, Pasu (2,400 m 7,870 ft)
Hotel, trek. Return to Pasu for some rest.
Day 15, Karimabad (2,440 8,000 ft)
Hotel, jeep. Leaving early morning by jeep we proceed to the famous Khunjerab Pass (4,833 m.). After touching China at the highest paved border crossing in the world where the Pamirs meet the Karakoram we return to Karimabad on KKH. We arrive back in town in the late afternoon.
Day 16, Gilgit (1,500 m 4,920 ft)
Hotel, drive. We return to Gilgit and have ample opportunity to visit the Central Asian bazaars and do some sightseeing.
Day 17, Rawalpindi/Islamabad
Hotel, flight, and trek debriefing. Here we go again and find ourselves looking forward to being on this world-famous flight. One can never get enough of the sight of Nanga Parbat which is so huge that the plane takes about ten minutes to cross its northern face!
Note: On day 17, if the weather is bad and flights are canceled then we will leave Gilgit by road on KKH to return to Rawalpindi/Islamabad. This will be a long day and we will arrive back in Rawalpindi/Islamabad sometimes during the late evening of the same day. On the other hand, the flight takes under 2 hours